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Montessori School students give grants to local non-profits
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For the second year, middle school students at the Montessori School of Covington have awarded grants totaling $1,000 to local non-profit organizations serving Newton County.

The students (Sarah Allen, Taylor Bechtler, Julia Marshall, Madeline McCanless, Tai Paulsen, Carly Travis and Claire Vinson) worked hand-in-hand with the Newton Fund of The Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta and senior consultant Jasper Tanner to select local non-profits for consideration, make site visits and interview directors with those organizations before making their decision on which programs would receive the grants.

"At the Community Foundation, we work with this next generation of philanthropists through activities like our annual Planet Philanthropy event and see the benefits of engaging young people in philanthropy," said one of the Community Foundations advisors, Erin Drury. "It helps youth to better understand what’s going on in their community and how they can make a difference through giving, whether it’s volunteerism or financially."

Students raised $500 through a Scholastic Book Fair and the Newton Fund matched that amount. The money was given to Project ReNeWal — a domestic violence intervention program that operates a shelter for victims in Newton, Rockdale and Walton counties — and the Newton County Humane Society.

"I’m speechless," said Project ReNeWal Director Vickie Stevenson. "This is priceless to us."

She said the organization planned to use the grant money to purchase a projector system that would allow them to give community outreach presentations. Betty Bellairs, director for the local Humane Society, said that the grant money awarded them would be used solely for their spay and neuter program.

"This could not have come at a better time," she said. "All charities have suffered in this economy."

Barbara Morgan, advisory board chair of the Newton Fund, said she hoped the philanthropy program would catch on in public schools around the county and that it would not stay strictly a Montessori program.

"I see potential in this program expanding in other school settings," she said on behalf of the Newton Fund. "They have created a template here at the Montessori school for youth philanthropy but it doesn’t have to be limited to the Montessori school."